Saw a grand total of five films this past weekend at the New York Asian Film Fest. And I learned two valuable lessons. The first, I’ll be going into a bit later. The second is that the Japanese really loves pro wrestling. Anyway…
OH! MY ZOMBIE MERMAID
So how’s this for a plot? Shishio is a pro-wrestler who has just built a dream house for his wife and the kids and decides to celebrate by throwing a huge party. All his pro-wresler buddies are in attendance, and everything’s just dandy until someone with a beef with Shishio shows up to cause trouble, and next thing you know, a full blown battle royal ensues among all the party-goers, and the house is totally trashed (plus it then explodes). Shishio’s wife is then rushed to the hospital, and the initial fear that she might have brain damage from smoke inhalation is quickly dismissed, only to discover that she’s been infected with the “Mermaid Bacteria”. So as her skin peels off to reveal scales underneath, and she starts to grow fins and squeak, Shishio decides to build another house, believing it’ll be the cure to his wife’s affliction. Problem is, the guy’s swimming in debt, and when he decides to adopt a grueling touring schedule, all the other grapplers in his company quit, leaving only his wife’s sister who helps run things, as well as two wrestling dorks that tag along, by Shishio’s side. With his back to the wall, a sleezy television executive decides to build a new house for Shishio that’s virtually a palace, but there’s a catch: he has to claim it as his own by defeating all a gang of evil wrestlers, and for the television cameras. This evil game of wrestlers btw consists of a barbarian, an army commando-type, an Amazonian woman who might be a guy, a Chinese martial arts expert, and a zombie.
I gotta say that Oh! My Zombie Mermaid might be the craziest, most insane movie I have ever seen (and this from a guy that knows about Karate Ruler). Even now I’m at an almost total loss of words. It was that damn amazing. You’ll just have to see it for yourself (you can check out the trailer here). And I swear to God, if Vince McMahon was to see this film and do the same exact thing with the World Wrestling Entertainment, it would be the highest grossing film in the United States of all time, absolutely no doubt about it. Oh, and it also has without a doubt the greatest death scene ever in the film.
SKI JUMPING PAIRS: ROAD TO TORINO 2006
Ski Jumping Pairs is just like traditional ski jumping, with the skier going down a very long take-off ramp to jettison as far as possible, except in this instance there’s two different skiers on the same pair of skis. Its the creation of Professor Harada, a physicist who discovered that the frozen treats that he would get for his young sons, in extreme temperatures, would split into two. Combined with how the kids, inspired by what their dad told them when asked why skis are so long (something about God making it so two people can fit on them), decided to get on the same pair of skis and go down a school playground slide, which allowed them to fly an incredible distance, Harada postulated the Rendezvous Theory and created the sport of Ski Jumping Pairs to prove its validity. The documentary covers the birth of this sport, from its very shaky beginnings, and doubt and cynicism that Harada endured, to its eventual acceptance by the scientific and sporting communities.
The highlight had to be when the international committee on winder sports deemed that Ski Jumping Pairs was too dangerous to be recognized as an official sport, so to prove itself, Harada had to have 108 Ski Jumping Pairs perform successful attempts, over half of them over the 1 kilometer mark, and all in a row. So an event was held, right at the turn of the millennium, and someone who had been admiring the new sport’s creator and participants was enlisted to help, that being legendary Japanese pro-wreslter Antonio Inoki. So once the skiers landed, they passed by Inoki, who instilled in them “the spirit of the samurai”, which meant beating the crap out them while screaming “Feeling great?!” Basically its a fake documentary on a fake sport based on fake science. One that reaches Spinal Tap levels of brilliance due to how serious it takes itself. All the jumps themselves were done using CGI, and even though its hardly Industrial Light & Magic quality, its so funny and endearing, like the rest of the film, it just works.
FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT
Sometimes I get a little annoyed whenever someone sees a movie and all they can say about it afterwards is “Man, that was so weird!”, because it often looks as if they’re just trying to be cool or funny or aren’t thinking hard enough. The term “impossible to describe” has also been abused to death, at least when its applied to movies, at least in my opinion, and even I’m guilty of that at times (plus I think I sorta did the first annoying thing when describing Zombie Mermaid). But I all I can say is Funky Forest is truly something that defies any sort of description, and it is very much weird. I know I already said that Cromarite High was “really difficult to describe”, but at least that some semblance of a unified plot and the such. Hell, Funky Forest isn’t even truly a movie in the convention sense. The only way I could really paint a picture of what Funky Forest is might be to ask someone to take the very best parts of the movie The Taste of Tea (the same director’s previous work), the film Naked Lunch, the last two seasons of the Kids in the Hall (when they were really experimental), a few episodes of Liquid Television, plus a little bit of David Lynch and a little bit of Wes Anderson, and combine it all to form a Japanese television show, one that’s probably on very late at night, maybe on cable access. Watching Funky Forest is like watching the entire season of this show on DVD in one sitting, and with all the chapters set to random.
The film as a whole is basically a collection of short films and sketches, with a few recurring characters that ties things together. According to Twitch (an excellent indie/foreign film blog, btw), originally appeared in a series of coffee ads, and in the movie they’re referred to as “Guitar Brother” or the much funnier “Unpopular-With-Women Brothers”, which are played by two Japanese actors (who of which is Tadanobu Asano, who most people know from Ichii the Killer, plus he was also in Taste of Tea and Survive Style 5+) and a fat American kid (who speaks perfect Japanese and eats Snickers non-stop). Plus you have the “Babbling Hot Spring Vixens”, a young teacher/student duo (the English teacher looks hardly older than his aloof student, and all attempts to woo her, including spinning records, totally bombs), the young girl from Taste of Tea (instead of being haunted by a 50 foot doppleganer, she now can shoot lasers with her mind), and three girls that act as DJs, with nature as their instruments. The highlight of the first half (the film is two and half hours, and there’s even an intermission in the middle) is a song and dance number and the second half’s is a parody of all those wacky classroom shows. Plus there’s one scene where a girl is asked by a furry, after pulling his really long furry member, to stick a tube in her bellybutton to power an asshole in a box which contains a small chef. Then there’s a part where a guy with really elongated nipples that releases various bodily floods who squirts them out for a girl to swat at with a tennis racket. I could go on and on… Maybe the trailer might answer some questions… or not. Funky Forest is my favorite from the festival thus far, and that’s saying a lot considering some of the other outstanding offerings, but watching it was seriously one of the worst movie going experiences I have ever had to endure. More on that in just a bit… Also, MK was totally correct when she said that I would absolutely love the soundtrack.
BEETLE, THE HORN KING
The movie tells the tale of Beetle, a masked wrestler who follows the tradition set forth by other masked wrestlers from Mexico, meaning he stands for truth and justic. Plus he’s kinda from another world, and he’s here to fight other evil bug-themed wrestlers from the other side of the galaxy whenever they pose a threat. He’s basically your average Power Ranger, but one who plays his own entrance theme on the guitar and wears a sombrero to the ring. Early on, evil wrestlers resembling a cockroach, spider, and praying mantis, attempt to take over the Tokyo Dome, but are thwarted by Beetle, and a writer for struggling wrestling magazine finds a new story, plus a new object of her affection. Soon Disaster, a super big bad bug wrestler, this one based on a stag beetle, and the hero’s arch-nemesis, shows up with a girl that’s part moth. They both come close to killing Beetle, but the reporter gets him out of harms way and they retreat to her place so he can heal up. All of sudden, the Beetle’s old trainer shows up and he recounts how both the Beetle and Disaster ten years prior used to be friends that both tracked him down in the middle of the Alps after he had retired to seek tutelage. He reluctantly supplied, and they became expert supreme wrestling machines as a result. But eventually a girl came between them, and when the trainer decided to bestow knowledge of the most devastating wrestling move known to mankind, the Human Tornado, only to Beetle, Disaster became incensed and ran off with the girl. They went to South America to seek the ultimate power that some amulet (which interestingly enough is shaped like a beetle) was said to offer its owner, with the Beetle in tow. The amulet is discovered, but then an alien shows up claiming that its his, one who likes to combine humans with bug DNA, so he does the same with these three. But he also chooses Beetle to be the ultimate galactic warrior, as to create a line of toys and junk to sell to alien kids on alien Christmas. Once the recovered Beetle realizes that his amulet was stolen from him, he goes on a quest get it back, and along the way, hooks up with other noble masked wrestlers at secret, palatial hide-out which other luchadores can only dream of, has a nice swimming pool, plenty of barbecued meats, and chicks in bikinis running around. Sorta like the Justice League, except all masked wrestlers.
From the same guy who previously directed a film about a giant pro wrestling squid, Beetle The Horn King was a pretty enjoyable light-hearted and cartoony romp though the world of pro wrestling, whereas Oh! My Zombie Mermaid was far more serious and grisly. And it’s the forth fifth in this festival alone to have pro-wrestling content (Zombie Mermaid, Sii Jumping Pairs, and Cromartie had wrestlers in them, plus there’s a scene where people are watching a match on television in the period piece Always – Sunset on Third Street). I’m also really looking forward to the director’s next movie, which is about a koala bear who’s a business man that must find the murder of his girlfriend and also discover the reasons behind gaps in his memory, which may or may not incriminating him.
A STRANGER OF MINE
Yet another completely unexpectedly awesome flick, and a really nice change of pace from all the totally oddball offerings up till this point. It’s the very simple of Miyata, a guy who got dumped many months prior and has been depressed out ever since, and Kuwata, a girl who just broke up with her fianc? earlier that morning when she suspected that he was cheating on her, and of their chance encounter at a restaurant one evening, thanks to Miyata’s detective buddy Kanda. But the meat of the film is how it goes over the same space of time over and over again, but from different character’s points of view: Miyata’s, Kanda’s, Miyata’s ex-girlfriend who pops up “unexpectedly”, and even her new yakuza boyfriend. MK said it felt like a Guy Richie film to her, and since I really haven’t seen enough of his movies to make a comment, I will say that it sorta felt like Pulp Fiction, with multiple characters, many of which have nothing to do with each other, brushing shoulders. Without all the blood and violence, though there is a briefcase at the center of it all. And I think of all the films I’ve seen at the fest, a Stranger of Mine is easily the most solid and over-all excellent.
AS FOR OTHER STUFF…
So MK ended up seeing Funky Forest on Tuesday because she had a family thing to attend on Saturday, and I couldn’t see it earlier in the week with her since that’s when I teach class. She ended up really enjoying the flick, but unfortunately had to deal with some rabid Otaku dipsit sitting right next to her who talked throughout the whole thing, one who was all “OMG THAT’S SO WACKY-JAPPY!!!!!!!!” MK hoped that I wouldn’t have to deal with such bullshit. Well…
That other lesson I learned from this weekend? That New York City film going audiences officially suck dick. As awesome as the NY Asian Film Fest is, there’s been one major annoyance throughout, and its the people. I’ve already described the crazy old rich white women and brain-dead teenage Asian girls, but there’s another quotent of the audience that’s worse than both of those groups combined: uber nerdy film fags. And the entire place during Funky Forest was completely packed with those dipshits, resulting in perhaps the worst movie going experience in my entire life. To the point that I seriously don’t want to see another fllm in a NYC theater ever again (I almost didn’t want to bother with other movies on Sunday). You wouldn’t believe how psyched I was to see Funky Forest, and I was so ready to soak in every single second of it’s two and half hours of what I knew would be total cinematic bliss, but in the end all I wanted to do was scream and tear through the theater to the nearest exit, while kicking or punching everyone person in the back of the head on the way out.
The entire crowd was the biggest collection of loud and annoying WACKY-JAPPY!!!-fucktards I’ve ever had to endure. They basically laughed at every single stupid little joke way too hard; don’t get me wrong, the movie is quite funny and all, but the reaction was simply overkill. It almost felt like they didn’t even get what was going on, nor did they care; all the noise wasn’t for the movie but for themselves, like a huge collective pat on their backs for being such smart, super-cool movie, and totally hip film geeks (since nerds these days are all about constant vocal self-validation). Though none of them was as annoying as the worthless piece of shit asshole that sat to my right; like all cinema dorks, him and his dumbass friend spent the entire time beforehand trying to see how many Japanese directors’ names they could ramble off in the shortest amount like some nerdy, transparent dick-waving contest. As for during the movie, the douchebag LAUGHED AT EVER SINGLE FUCKING THING THAT APPEARED OR HAPPENED ONSCREEN (seriously, at one point he laughed at a tree that was in the shot, and I tell you, it was not that funny of a tree!) and he was of course also obnoxiously loud aboout it as well, because again, it ultimately wasn’t about the movie but all about him having a good time. I know its a subtitled film, and one doesn’t need to hear the dialogue, but that’s not the point, and he was just such a distraction that even my friend Adam who was on my other side couldn’t fucking believe what was happening. But if he wasn’t laughing, he would just sit there with this huge shit-eating grin on his face (accentuated by a huge overbite) while shaking his head, as if he simply couldn’t believe that he was in such a Japanophile wonderland. Then during the film’s intermission, he like everyone else had to go all “OMG OMG OMG, that movie is so weird! IT’S SO FUCKING WEIRD!!!” a mile a fucking minute. Though what really killed me was when he decided to be a true-blue Otaku-shlep by pulling out the Pocky. Granted, I can’t complain too much since it was being sold by the Subway Cinema folks, but come on, talk about your raging stereotypes (anyone who’s actually familiar with Japanese candy knows that Pocky is overrated as all hell). I mean this in all seriousness when I say that I had to use every fiber in my being to hold back the urge to punch the guy in the face. And, to prove that he was the total package, the minute the movie ended, him and his dipshit buddy instantly began with the film analysis: “Well, I did see some recurring themes…” I have long believed that once a movie ends, everyone should just shut the fuck up and let it soak in, at least till you get out the goddamn door before acting all Roger Ebert.
So why didn’t I just say something? Because I know myself, and any attempt to ask the guy to shut the fuck up diplomatically would have ended up with me full-on screaming in his face, and then I would have been the asshole who gets kicked out! Needless to say, I’m still VERY angry about it all. I guess the main reason is that I really don’t know when or how or even if I’ll ever see Funky Forest again; when you deal with assholes at the multiplex, at least know that whatever Hollywood motion picture will eventually be out on DVD. But when it comes to esoteric Japanese comedies, other than bootleggers and BitTorrent sites, there’s really no real options…
Once again, worst goddamn movie going experience ever, and Adam was just as annoyed and dismayed (he was also shocked that I didn’t slap the asshole next to me). Once we got outside I simply couldn’t hold it in anymore and started ranting and raving, though Adam seemed to get a real kick out it it. He even mentioned that the reason why he enjoys hearing me bitch about things is that I’m pretty much the Lorax of complaining, which is seriously one of the best compliments I have ever gotten. But the whole evening got me in such a pissed off mood that I simply had to get home as soon as possible, because I simply didn’t want to deal with people anymore, nor was the idea of then sweating in hot, humid subway station at all enticing, so I just took a cab back to Brooklyn where MK was waiting for me at home. And she happened to have the cure to my foul mood: a copy of Johnny Ryan’s latest book, the Comic Book Holocaust, which are parodies a whole truckload of super hero and indie comics. The one about Captain America proving to everyone that he’s not gay by flaunting his flat-chested Asian girlfriend had me giggling like a little school girl for a solid two minutes straight. I really needed a good laugh right then and there.
I swore to MK that if I saw that douchebag that sat next to me from Funky Forest at Beetle the Horn King, I’d have to tell him off, and lo and behold, he did show up, but since he was a good five rows ahead of us, plus the sound system in the Imaginasian theater simply blows the one in the Anthology Film Archives out of the water, the dipshit wasn’t too noticeable.
Also, MK won yet another of the prize drawings on Sunday (she had won a book on Akira Kurosawa on Tuesday). She had to choose between a Bollywood musical called D for Disco, or something called the Hero, which Grady Hendrix called the most offensive film ever, so I swayed her in that direction. I think she sorta regretted her choice afterwards, but I did explain that virtually every novel idea for a Bollywood musical becomes a total borefest. Then we discovered that the Hero also has musical numbers, but we read somewhere that there’s tons of explosions, plus something about a helicopter going through a waterfall upside down, so that sounds at least somewhat decent.